West Bank settlements top priority for Israel's incoming hard-line government

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By AP & Euronews
FILE - Benjamin Netanyahu, former Israeli Prime Minister and the head of Likud party
FILE - Benjamin Netanyahu, former Israeli Prime Minister and the head of Likud party   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Oren Ziv, File

Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled his incoming hard-line government's priorities on Wednesday, with West Bank settlement expansion topping the list.

The new government vowed to annex the occupied West Bank territory and legalise outposts that were built illegally.

It's part of a coalition agreement with Israeli ultranationalists before the government is expected to be sworn into office on Thursday.

The deal included language endorsing discrimination against LGBTQ people on religious grounds, contentious judicial reforms, as well as generous stipends for ultra-Orthodox men who prefer to study instead of work.

Israel's new government is set to be the country's most religious and right-wing in history, which could put it at odds with large parts of the Israeli public and escalate tensions with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu previously spent a total of 15 years as prime minister and is returning to office after being ousted last year.

His new government is made up of ultra-Orthodox parties, a far-right ultranationalist religious faction affiliated with the West Bank settler movement, and his Likud party.

Israel captured the West Bank in 1967 along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, which is territory the Palestinians seek for a future state.

Israel has constructed dozens of Jewish settlements for around 500,000 Israelis, who live alongside around 2.5 million Palestinians.

Most of the international community considers Israel’s West Bank settlements illegal and an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians.

The United States already has warned the incoming government against taking steps that could further undermine hopes for an independent Palestinian state.

In response to a request for comment, the Palestinian leadership said that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be resolved only through the establishment of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital.

Without a negotiated two-state solution, "there will be no peace, security or stability in the region," said Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog on Wednesday expressed “deep concern” about the incoming government and its positions on LGBTQ rights, racism, and the country’s Arab minority in a rare meeting with Ben-Gvir, one of the coalition's most radical members.